(January 3, 2013) In a battle of powerful groundstrokes, Serena Williams defeated fellow American Sloane Stephens 6-4, 6-3 to gain the semifinals at the Brisbane International on Thursday. Williams will meet No. 1 Victoria Azarenka for a place in the final. The Belarusian topped Kazakh qualifier Ksenia Pervak 6-1, 6-0.
Williams pegged her 19-year-old opponent as having great potential “the best in the world one day,” Williams said.
“She definitely pushed me. I’ve always said she’s a really good player. You have to expect that going up against what I would consider a top player.”
“I definitely want to thank (Sloane Stephens) for giving me such a great match, because I’m going up against another good player, great player, tomorrow, so I have to make sure I’m ready.”
Azarenka is looking forward to the match-up against Williams.”Well, it’s a tough match, there is no question about it. I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a great test for the Australian Open.” Williams holds a career 11-1 record against Azarenka.
“I’m going up against the world’s greatest tomorrow. She had a fabulous (2012) year,” Williams said of Azarenka. “I feel like I have nothing to lose. She’s playing so well, she won I think in 20 minutes today. I have a lot of work to do tomorrow.”
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, a Brisbane semifinalist two years ago, stunned fourth seed German Angelique Kerber in two tiebreak sets 7-6(3), 7-6(3) to set up a semifinal match-up with Ukrainian lucky loser Lesia Tsurenko.
Andy Murray got a little more than he bargained for in Brisbane on Thursday. The Scot had to battle past Australian qualifier John Millman 6-1, 5-7, 6-3 in over two hours to get through the second round.
“I think it was a pretty high quality match,” said Murray. “He gained in confidence and started going for his shots more. He was returning my first serve extremely well and playing right up on the baseline and just going for big shots. It was tough for me to dictate too many of the points. I made some adjustments with the way I was serving in the third set that turned it around, but he played really, really well for the most part.
“For a first match of the year, that was a perfect match in many ways to go through some tough moments, a lot of long rallies, close games, and important points.”
He’ll face Denis Istomin next, who took out Lleyton Hewitt 7-5, 7-5.The veteran Hewitt was overpowered by No. 43 Istomin knocking 11 aces past his opponent.
January 3, 2013 Results
WTA Singles – Quarterfinals
(1) Victoria Azarenka (BLR) d. (Q) Ksenia Pervak (KAZ) 61 60
(3) Serena Williams (USA) d. Sloane Stephens (USA) 64 63
Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) d. (4) Angelique Kerber (GER) 76(3) 76(3)
(LL) Lesia Tsurenko (UKR) d. Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) 63 64
WTA Doubles – Semifinals
Mattek-Sands/Mirza (USA/IND) d. Hantuchova/Srebotnik (SVK/SLO) 51 ret. (Hantuchova: left thigh strain)
WTA Doubles – Quarterfinals
(1) Errani/Vinci (ITA/ITA) d. (WC) Gajdosova/Rogowska (AUS/AUS) w/o (Gajdosova: left thigh strain)
ATP Singles – Second Round
 A Murray (GBR) d [Q] J Millman (AUS) 61 57 63
G Dimitrov (BUL) d  M Raonic (CAN) 63 64
 J Melzer (AUT) d D Goffin (BEL) 64 76(4)
D Istomin (UZB) d [WC] L Hewitt (AUS) 75 75
ATP Doubles – Quarter-finals
M Melo (BRA) / T Robredo (ESP) d  C Fleming (GBR) / J Murray (GBR) 76(2) 64
M Baghdatis (CYP) / J Nieminen (FIN) d A Falla (COL) / S Giraldo (COL) 64 64
G Dimitrov (BUL) / K Nishikori (JPN) d [Alt] J Peers (AUS) / J Smith (AUS) 76(6) 75
SCHEDULE – FRIDAY, 4 JANUARY, 2013
PAT RAFTER ARENA start 11:30 am
M Baghdatis (CYP) vs  G Simon (FRA) – ATP
Not Before 1:30 PM
 A Dolgopolov (UKR) vs  K Nishikori (JPN) – ATP
Not Before 4:00 PM
 A Murray (GBR) vs D Istomin (UZB) – ATP
Not Before 7:00 PM
 V Azarenka (BLR) vs  S Williams (USA) – WTA
A Pavlyuchenkova (RUS) vs [LL] L Tsurenko (UKR) – WTA
SHOW COURT 1 start 2:00 pm
 J Melzer (AUT) vs G Dimitrov (BUL) – ATP
Not Before 2:30 PM
 E Butorac (USA) / P Hanley (AUS) vs M Baghdatis (CYP) / J Nieminen (FIN) – ATP
Not Before 5:00 PM
 S Errani (ITA) / R Vinci (ITA) vs  A Groenefeld (GER) / K Peschke (CZE) – WTA